When the Kent State University football team made it to its first bowl game in 40 years last month, no one was as surprised as the players.
Just ask Danny Gress. A redshirt junior from Northmont High School, the middle linebacker had plenty of goals in mind when he committed to Kent State four years ago, but none consisted of taking the Flashes to a bowl game.
“It was kind of surreal,” Gress said. “We were the first team to go since the early 1970s. Being here for four years, we were focused on getting to a bowl game. But a lot of people in the back of their head didn’t even think about it. We just wanted to play for a MAC championship.”
Kent State lost 17-13 to Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Gress came off the bench, as he did in all 13 games this season, to record 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Gress also played in the MAC title game at Ford Field in Detroit, a 44-37 loss to Northern Illinois in two overtimes.
“It was pretty cool getting to play there,” Gress said. “The field was amazing.”
Kent State, which was ranked in the top 20 for a portion of the season, was in contention for a BCS bowl game bid until the MAC championship game loss.
The Flashes, like the rest of the conference, have had more opportunities for exposure thanks to televised weeknight games on the ESPN networks. Many of the games this season were high-scoring and entertaining, aiding the conference’s national profile.
“Luckily we didn’t let any of the games we played in get out of control,” Gress said. “But I think a lot of it has to do with how good our quarterbacks are, like Zac Dysert at Miami or Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois.”
Gress, who is majoring in sports administration and has an eye on a law-enforcement career, has one more year left at Kent State. He hopes to make the most of it as part of the stating lineup.
“Individually, I’d like to start and I’d like to contribute more to special teams,” Gress said. “Our team goal is to go back to the MAC championship game – and win it.”
Turner in the lineup: Allie Turner (Greenon), a junior at Morehead State, has started 14 of the team’s 21 games. She is averaging 5.8 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. She had 17 points against Austin Peay on Jan. 14.
Candella all-district: Brandon Candella (Lakota West) was named to the all-district academic team by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Candella, a 6-foot-3 senior, had a 3.74 GPA while majoring in business and sports management. He is Wilmington’s leading scorer with 15.6 points per game and is second in rebounding (4.3).
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